The Gross Hilarity of Humans in Space – “Packing for Mars” by Mary Roach
Body Odor. Monkey Masturbation. Poop-collecting bags.
All this may sound gross to you, but for NASA scientists it’s just another day at the office.
America’s funniest science writer, Mary Roach, has done it again. Having shone light on the brave souls who work with cadavers, study sex, and hunt ghosts in her last three books, with “Packing for Mars” she turns her rabid curiosity and wonderfully absurd sense of humor to the skies. Roach ventures into an area lesser-stomached writers would never dare to tread – the science behind putting human beings in space. Not the science of building rockets and all that jazz, mind you. We’re talking about the physical science of placing human beings with incredibly flawed and differing human bodies inside those rockets and ships that will go shooting out into space and will often keep them there for weeks or even years at a time.
Humans must be the most frustrating thing for scientists, for no amount of mathematical genius or higher education can presume to understand the factors present in a person’s mental and physical make-up. Who can predict out of a line-up of trained potential astronauts who’s going to be the one to have a nervous breakdown or fall apart under pressure? Unfortunately for the highly-educated researchers and scientists, humans are needed to pilot spacecraft and for the exploration of other planets.
And so, strange research has to happen.
What happens if you puke in your helmet during a spacewalk? Are there really people paid to lie down for months at a time to study the effects of lack of movement on the human body? Did someone really leave a plastic banana on the grave of Ham, the first chimp to go into orbit? Was there really a porn film shot in zero-gravity? These, and many other mysterious questions are answered (or at least explored) within the eye-opening and laughter-inducing pages of “Packing for Mars.”
I think Mary Roach is the bee’s knees. She writes candidly and with a quick wit, and she’s never afraid to step up to a challenge. For this book, she jumps into zero-gravity and drinks re-furbished urine to get the full effect of the millions of dollars spent on these studies.
She’s a bold, whip-smart lady and I look forward to each new book of hers.
[I bought this book for my Stepdad for Christmas. I hope he enjoys it as much as I did!]